Letter from home
03/14/2009, 9:08 PM
Filed under: Tunes | Tags: ,

By Nate LeBlanc

“From time to time, excellent material is recorded but, for one reason or another, is never released. This is a case in point.” Jac Holzman, founder, Elektra Records

Today we have a gem from forgotten folk artist Clarence Cooper. His version of “900 Miles” has been a mixtape secret weapon of mine for years. To me, it’s a perfect song, powerfully delivered and unusually dynamic for a traditional folk ballad. Cooper had a brief but interesting career, delivering his lone album in 1955 when Elektra LPs were still released on 10″.


He was also in the Tarriers, a folk combo founded by the actor Alan Arkin. I discovered Cooper and this incredible recording through this Elektra sampler record from 1957 that I pulled from my grandfather’s collection after he passed.

This is the only picture I could find of Mr. Cooper, from a 45 released in France containing his “Negro spirituals.” Any further information or copies of his other recordings would be greatly appreciated.


Here’s the song, I hope you enjoy it. Dig the way the guitar augments the whistle, the active bass, and the palpable sense of longing in the lead vocal.

LISTEN TO “900 Miles”


14 Comments so far
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I LOVE Clarence Cooper! I’ve really been getting into his Tarrier’s stuff recently, and have managned to track down some of their rarer material like “Hard Travelin'” and “Gather ‘Round” etc. I’m going to try and find a copy of these, though. Thanks so much for posting.



Comment by Mark

Forgot to mention, this song “900 Miles” is the exact same tune as the Kingston Trio’s song “The Wanderer”.



Comment by Mark

Thanks Mark! Feel free to pass along anymore Clarence carter tracks/info to us as you get them. Many thanks!


Comment by david ma

By the way, do you actually own a copy of “Goin’ Down the Road?” If you do, would you be willing to make a CD copy for me in exchange for a CD of his rare Tarriers material?


Comment by Anonymous

Came across your blog while searching for information on Clarence Cooper. I posted a rare live recording of Cooper at the Village Limelight in 1964. You can hear it and find some background information at:

The Mudcat Cafe Forum


Comment by john~k

Awesome man, thanks! Definitely gonna check this out.


Comment by david ma

Hey has anyone ever come across a copy of goin’ down the road? 900 miles became a bit of a dj stable at our night in Birmingham Uk…(i wonder if clarence ever thought 24 yr old white boys from Brum would be dancing to 900 miles in 2010!)

Finding a copy of Goin’ has become pretty much the holy grail!


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Hard Travelin’ is probably the best Tarriers album in my opinion no offense to Eric Weissberg he’s one of my favorite banjoist but I always dug Erik Darling’s swing he brought into the groups


Comment by Shepard

Tip top stuff. I’ll expect more now.


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[…] De La played a major role in expanding the sonic palette of sample-able material throughout their career, and Platurn is unafraid to get a little weird here, as you will notice when you get caught at a red light really enjoying bumping a Walter Wanderly instrumental. Props are due to Platurn for focusing on semi-deep catalog material like ‘The Patti Dooke.’ It’s a treat for the De La obsessives among us. Also incredible is the long section dissecting and interacting with the ‘Buddy Native Tongues Remix’. There are so many references both musical and verbal in that song that there may have been an entire mixtapes’ worth of material just in that song. How many dudes that you know could get an actual member of De La to drop an intro to their tribute mix? Platurn is that dude, and this mix is absolutely top-notch. Get it. – Nate LeBlanc […]


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